Umbeshrien! Next thing you know they’ll be saying…

… women shouldn’t be forced to wear black sacks.

The Anatomy of Revolution

CASTRO MOVES INTO THE HAVANA HILTON

BY SANDRA M. CASTILLO

[To mark his death, UD looks at this poem, which reflects on the ironies of history and the disastrous tendencies of revolutions. The title alludes to Castro having in victory taken over and reclaimed the very Batista-esque Hilton Hotel, renaming it Free Havana.]

“History always dresses us for the wrong occasions.”
—Ricardo Pau-Llosa


[Scruffy guerrillas from the hills crowd into the plush Hilton.]

Camera Obscura

[The whole poem will concern itself with obscurity, enigma — the ungraspability of the meaning of historical events and world-historical figures. Part of the problem, it will suggest, is precisely the images through which we try to take in the real world.]

The afternoon lightening his shadow,
Fidel descends from the mountains,
the clean-shaven lawyer turned guerilla,
his eyes focused on infinity,
El Jefe Máximo con sus Barbudos,
rebels with rosary beads


[History once again seems to dress us wrong – anti-clerical revolutionaries retaining their rosary beads.]

on their 600-mile procession across the island
with campesinos on horseback, flatbed trucks, tanks,
a new year’s journey down the oldest roads
towards betrayal.


[Towards betrayal. The revolution will be betrayed. Betray itself.]

Ambient light. Available light

[We always have very partial knowledge. We move by what’s available to us in terms of understanding, but it’s never enough.]

Light inside of them,
nameless isleños line El Malecón to touch Fidel,
already defining himself in black and white.
The dramatic sky moving in for the close-up
that will frame his all-night oratory,
he turns to the crowd,
variations on an enigma,
waving from his pulpit with rehearsed eloquence,
a dove on his shoulder.


[First the references to the rosary, and now, in this stanza, many suggestions that this “faith” (Fidel) revolution is really a slightly transposed religious event – variations on an enigma – with people lining up to touch their deity, who dresses like a priest in black and white. He speaks from a “pulpit” and sports a dove.]

This is a photograph. This is not a sign.

[People stubbornly “symbolize” reality, a process by which a revolutionary leader becomes a god.]

Flash-on camera. Celebrity portraits.

1. Fidel on a balcony across the street
from Grand Central Station,
an American flag above his head,
New York, 1959.

2. Fidel made small by the Lincoln Memorial,
Washington D.C., 1959.

3. Fidel learning to ski,
a minor black ball against a white landscape,
Russia, 1962.

4. Fidel and shotgun,
hunting with Nikita,
Russia, 1962.

Circles of Confusion

Beyond photographs,
Havana is looted and burned.
Women weep at our wailing wall,
El Paredón, where traitors are taken,
and television cameras shoot
the executions, this blood soup,
the paradoxes of our lives,
three years before I am born.

[Random photographic images trace Fidel’s reduction to a celebrity – or, if you like, the process by which the revolution’s strongman becomes a kitschy version of god – while the rest of the religious story plays out as well: The wailing wall where we mourn the loss or theft of the original faith; the devolution of divine passion into inquisition. But it’s a modern inquisition – it’s all photographed and filmed.]

Photoflood


[A photoflood is a lamp that sheds intense illumination in order to produce artificial light for photography and filming. The only form of true lucidity available to us is the artificial brilliance we rig up in order to “flood” the world with yet more images.]

But it is late afternoon,
and a shower of confetti and serpentine
falls from every floor of the Havana Hilton,
where history is a giant piñata,
where at midnight, Fidel will be photographed
eating a ham sandwich.


[This final stanza returns us – after the poem’s meditation on history and revolution – to the narrative immediacy with which the poet began. We are back at the Hilton, and celebrations of the revolution’s victory take place. Of course, given the treacherous and enigmatic nature of such events, they are “serpentine.” The last lines make everything explicit: history is a nightmare of chaos and grief, a great violent shaking up which nonetheless can be seen to smuggle back in precisely the cultural realities that inspired the revolution in the first place. Its final image has Castro – at midnight, the darkest hour – fully reduced by the camera and celebrity culture: he is pictured eating a ham sandwich.]

Castro…

dies.

“THE UNIVERSE COULD BE ONE GIANT ALIEN CLAIMS SCIENTIST”

Whatever.

“First Refugees from the USA”

Sent to me by my German friend Chris.

Gift from the North Country

Bob Dylan finally acknowledges having gotten the Nobel.

Trump Campaign…

on a roll.

Malfunction at Dreamworld

As Don DeLillo pointed out in his most famous novel, White Noise, death while having fun is the quintessentially postmodern death.

Finally! Now I can vote for Trump.

Donald Trump Accepts Barack Obama Was Born in U.S.

Headline of the Day

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE RIO OLYMPICS WERE GREAT FOR THE JEWS

Other Headline of the Day

Paul Manafort Resigns Trump Campaign To Spend More Time With Beloved Despots

Headline of the Day

POETRY BOOKS ARE NOT ALWAYS FINANCIALLY VIABLE

Climate Change Didn’t Do It. Climate Change Doesn’t Exist.

Hillary did it.

Trump in…

Wisconsin.

Headline of the Day.

Dentist Who Pleaded Guilty To Tax Evasion Braces For Prison After Sentencing

Nice pun. Deserves a plaque.

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